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Jason Moran: In All Languages

A look at the artistically exhilarating world of Jason Moran, jazz’s greatest young conceptualist

Jason Moran performing with his Bandwagon trio at CareFusion Newport Jazz Festival 2010 (photo: Melissa Mergner)

On Oct. 28, 2007, Jason Moran, then 32, walked out alone onto the dimly lit stage of Washington’s Lisner Auditorium. On the overhead screen, black-and-white video flickered with still photos from Thelonious Monk’s rehearsals for his legendary 1959 Town Hall concert. As Moran sat down at the grand piano onstage, he placed a pair of black-padded headphones over his ears and the PA played Monk’s Town Hall Concert version of the tune “Thelonious.”

The same music was obviously coursing through Moran’s earmuffs, for he began playing along with the recording, not following the original so much as responding to it with improvised counterpoint at every turn, altering not only the harmony but the angular melody and rhythm as well. It was as if Moran were imagining what Monk might have sounded like had he lived to hear David Murray and Public Enemy.

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Originally Published

Geoffrey Himes

Geoffrey Himes has written about jazz and other genres of music on a regular basis for the Washington Post since 1977 and has also written for JazzTimes, Paste, Rolling Stone, New York Times, Smithsonian Magazine, National Public Radio, and others. His book on Bruce Springsteen, Born in the U.S.A., was published by Continuum Books in 2005 and he’s currently working on a major book for the Country Music Hall of Fame. He has been honored for Music Feature Writing by the Deems Taylor/ASCAP Awards (2003, 2005, 2014 and 2015), the New Orleans Press Awards, the Abell Foundation Awards and the Music Journalism Awards.